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George Saunders's Bookcase

George Saunders (born December 2, 1958) is an American writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children's books. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, McSweeney's and GQ. He also contributed a weekly column, American Psyche, to the weekend magazine of The Guardian until October 2008.

Photo by: David Shankbone

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Unburdened by the material necessities of the more fortunate, the denizens of Cannery Row discover rewards unknown in more traditional society. Henry the painter sorts through junk lots for pieces of wood to incorporate into the boat he is building, while the girls from Dora Flood’s bordello venture out now and then to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Lee Chong stocks his grocery with almost anything a man could want, and Doc, a young marine biologist who ministers to sick puppies and unhappy souls, unexpectedly finds true love. Cannery Row is just a few blocks long, but the story it harbors is suffused with warmth, understanding, and a great fund of human values.First published in 1945, Cannery Row focuses on the acceptance of life as it is—both the exuberance of community and the loneliness of the individual. John Steinbeck draws on his memories of the real inhabitants of Monterey, California, and interweaves their stories in this world where only the fittest survive—creating what is at once one of his most humorous and poignant works. In Cannery Row, John Steinbeck returns to the setting of Tortilla Flat to create another evocative portrait of life as it is lived by those who unabashedly put the highest value on the intangibles—human warmth, camaraderie, and love.

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Jack Kerouac's groundbreaking novel—soon to be a major motion picture with a star-studded castIn what is sure to be one of the major cinematic events of 2012, Jack Kerouac's legendary Beat classic, On the Road, will finally hit the big screen. Directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries; Paris, Je T'Aime) and with a cast of some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Kristen Stewart (The Twilight Saga), Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams (Julie & Julia, The Fighter), Tom Sturridge, and Viggo Mortensen (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Road), the film will attract new fans who will be inspired by Kerouac's revolutionary masterwork.

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When Pushkin first read some of the stories in this collection, he declared himself "amazed."  "Here is real gaiety," he wrote, "honest, unconstrained, without mincing, without primness. And in places what poetry! . . . I still haven't recovered."

More than a century and a half later, Nikolai Gogol's stories continue to delight readers the world over. Now a stunning new translation--from an award-winning team of translators--presents these stories in all their inventive, exuberant glory to English-speaking readers. For the first time, the best of Gogol's short fiction is brought together in a single volume: from the colorful Ukrainian tales that led some critics to call him "the Russian Dickens" to the Petersburg stories, with their black humor and wonderfully demented attitude toward the powers that be. All of Gogol's most memorable creations are here: the minor official who misplaces his nose, the downtrodden clerk whose life is changed by the acquisition of a splendid new overcoat, the wily madman who becomes convinced that a dog can tell him everything he needs to know.

These fantastic, comic, utterly Russian characters have dazzled generations of readers and had a profound influence on writers such as Dostoevsky and Nabokov. Now they are brilliantly rendered in the first new translation in twenty-five years--one that is destined to become the definitive edition of Gogol's most important stories.

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Zadie Smith’s dazzling debut caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie to John Irving and Martin Amis. But the truth is that Zadie Smith’s voice is remarkably, fluently, and altogether wonderfully her own.

At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith. Set against London’s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.

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In 1851 Leo Tolstoy enlisted in the Russian army and was sent to the Caucasus to help defeat the Chechens. During this war a great Avar chieftain, Hadji Murád, broke with the Chechen leader Shamil and fled to the Russians for safety. Months later, while attempting to rescue his family from Shamil’s prison, Hadji Murád was pursued by those he had betrayed and, after fighting the most heroic battle of his life, was killed.

Tolstoy, witness to many of the events leading to Hadji Murád’s death, set down this story with painstaking accuracy to preserve for future generations the horror, nobility, and destruction inherent in war.

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In the grand tradition of the epic novel, Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece brings to life the drama and immensity of the Russian Revolution through the story of the gifted physician-poet, Zhivago; the revolutionary, Strelnikov; and Lara, the passionate woman they both love. Caught up in the great events of politics and war that eventually destroy him and millions of others, Zhivago clings to the private world of family life and love, embodied especially in the magical Lara.

First published in Italy in 1957, Doctor Zhivago was not allowed to appear in the Soviet Union until 1987, twenty-seven years after the author’s death.

Translated by Manya Harari and Max Hayward

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

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A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole's hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures" (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times).

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No American masterpiece casts quite as awesome a shadow as Melville's monumental Moby Dick.  Mad Captain Ahab's quest for the White Whale is a timeless epic--a stirring tragedy of vengeance and obsession, a searing parable about humanity lost in a universe of moral ambiguity.  It is the greatest sea story ever told.  Far ahead of its own time, Moby Dick was largely misunderstood and unappreciated by Melville's contemporaries.  Today, however, it is indisputably a classic.  As D.H. Lawrence wrote, Moby Dick "commands a stillness in the soul, an awe . . . [It is] one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world."

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Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in.Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.

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Madame Bovary (1856) is the French writer Gustave Flaubert's debut novel. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Though the basic plot is rather simple, even archetypal, the novel's true art lies in its details and hidden patterns. Flaubert was a notorious perfectionist and claimed always to be searching for le mot juste ("the precise word"). When it was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between 1 October 1856 and 15 December 1856, the novel was attacked for obscenity by public prosecutors. The resulting trial, held in January 1857, made the story notorious. After Flaubert's acquittal on 7 February 1857, Madame Bovary became a bestseller when it was published as a single volume in April 1857. The novel is now considered Flaubert's masterpiece, as well as a seminal work of realism and one of the most influential novels ever written. In fact, the notable British-American critic James Wood writes in How Fiction Works: "Flaubert established for good or ill, what most readers think of as modern realist narration, and his influence is almost too familiar to be visible".

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A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the pursuit of happiness in America. Set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are.

Equal parts philosophical quest and screwball comedy, Infinite Jest bends every rule of fiction without sacrificing for a moment its own entertainment value. It is an exuberant, uniquely American exploration of the passions that make us human - and one of those rare books that renew the idea of what a novel can do.

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The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms

As featured in The New Yorker, Harper's, and The New York Times Book Review. Daniil Kharms has long been heralded as one of the most iconoclastic writers of the Soviet era, but the full breadth of his achievement is only in recent years, following the opening of Kharms's archives, being recognized internationally. Thanks to the efforts of translator and poet Matvei Yankelevich, English language readers now have a comprehensive collection of the prose and poetry that secured Kharms's literary reputationAa reputation that grew in Russia even as the Soviet establishment worked to suppress it. Both a major contribution for American scholars and students of Russian literature and an exciting discovery for fans of contemporary writers as eclectic as George Saunders, John Ashbery, and Martin McDonagh, Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writing of Daniil Kharms is an invaluable collection for readers of innovative writing everywhere. Translated from the Russian by Matvei Yankelevich

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Lydia Davis is one of our most original and influential writers. She has been called "an American virtuoso of the short story form" (Salon) and "one of the quiet giants . . . of American fiction" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Now, for the first time, Davis's short stories will be collected in one volume, from the groundbreaking Break It Down (1986) to the 2007 National Book Award nominee Varieties of Disturbance.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis is an event in American letters.

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The stolid landscape of Chicago suddenly turns dreamlike and otherworldly in Stuart Dybek's classic story collection. A child's collection of bottle caps becomes the tombstones of a graveyard. A lowly rightfielder's inexplicable death turns him into a martyr to baseball. Strains of Chopin floating down the tenement airshaft are transformed into a mysterious anthem of loss. Combining homely detail and heartbreakingly familiar voices with grand leaps of imagination, The Coast of Chicago is a masterpiece from one of America's most highly regarded writers.

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Endlessly digressive, boundlessly imaginative and unmatched in its absurd and timeless wit

Laurence Sterne's great masterpiece of bawdy humour and rich satire defies any attempt to categorize it, with a rich metafictional narrative that might classify it as the first 'postmodern' novel. Part novel, part digression, its gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate 'hero' Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters, including Dr Slop, Corporal Trim and the parson Yorick. A joyful celebration of the endless possibilities of the art of fiction, Tristram Shandy is also a wry demonstration of its limitations. The text and notes of this volume are based on the acclaimed Florida Edition, with a critical introduction by Melvyn New and Christopher Ricks's introductory essay from the first Penguin Classics edition.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Since its publication in 1842, Dead Souls has been celebrated as a supremely realistic portrait of provincial Russian life and as a splendidly exaggerated tale; as a paean to the Russian spirit and as a remorseless satire of imperial Russian venality, vulgarity, and pomp. As Gogol's wily antihero, Chichikov, combs the back country wheeling and dealing for "dead souls"--deceased serfs who still represent money to anyone sharp enough to trade in them--we are introduced to a Dickensian cast of peasants, landowners, and conniving petty officials, few of whom can resist the seductive illogic of Chichikov's proposition. This lively, idiomatic English version by the award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky makes accessible the full extent of the novel's lyricism, sulphurous humor, and delight in human oddity and error.

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A book judged so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only the manuscript but the ribbons on which it had been typed were confiscated by the state, Life and Fate is an epic tale of World War II and a profound reckoning with the dark forces that dominated the twentieth century.

Interweaving a transfixing account of the battle of Stalingrad with the story of a single middle-class family, the Shaposhnikovs, scattered by fortune from Germany to Siberia, Vasily Grossman fashions an immense, intricately detailed tapestry depicting a time of almost unimaginable horror and even stranger hope.

Life and Fate juxtaposes bedrooms and snipers’ nests, scientific laboratories and the Gulag, taking us deep into the hearts and minds of characters ranging from a boy on his way to the gas chambers to Hitler and Stalin themselves.

This novel of unsparing realism and visionary moral intensity is one of the supreme achievements of modern Russian literature.

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One of the most powerful short-story writers of the twentieth century, Isaac Babel expressed his sense of inner conflict through disturbing tales that explored the contradictions of Russian society. Whether reflecting on anti-Semitism in stories such as "Story of My Dovecote" and "First Love," or depicting Jewish gangsters in his native Odessa, Babel’s eye for the comical laid bare the ironies of history. His masterpiece, "Red Cavalry," set in the Soviet-Polish war, is one of the classics of modern fiction. By turns flamboyant and restrained, this collection of Babel’s best-known stories vividly expresses the horrors of his age. This translation is based on the complete, original text taken from an unexpurgated Russian edition.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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To American soldiers in Vietnam, "back in the world" meant America and safety. To Tobias Wolff's characters, Back in the World is where lives that have veered out of control just might become normal again. Unfortunately, the men and women in these gripping, pungent, and wonderfully skewed stories have only the vaguest notion of what normal is. A gentle priest finds himself in a Vegas hotel with a hysterical, sun-burned stranger. A show-biz hopeful undergoes a dubious audition in a hearse speeding across the California desert. An aging soldier is distracted from a night of philandering by a gun-toting neighbor and a suicidal enlisted man. As he moves among these unfortunates, Wolff observes the disparity between their realities and their dreams, in ten stories of exhilarating lucidity and grace.

Stories included are: "The Missing Person," "Say Yes," "The Poor Are Always With Us," "Sister," "Soldier's Joy," "Desert Breakdown," "Our Story Begins," "Leviathan," and "The Rich Brother."

"Terrific...The magic of his fiction cannot be explained. It is the ancient art of the master storyteller."--Tim O'Brien

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Authored

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

A New York Times Notable Book

"This book is a rare event: a brilliant new satirist bursting out of the gate in full stride, wildly funny, pure, generous—all that a great humorist should be."—Garrison Keillor"An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times."—Thomas Pynchon

"Scary, hilarious, and unforgettable . . . George Saunders is a writer of arresting brilliance and originality."—Tobias Wolff

"A cool satirist and a wicked stylist. The quirkiest and most accomplished short-story debut since Barry Hannah's Airships."—Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review

"Ingenious . . . full of savage humor and originality [and] scorching brilliance . . . the author creates a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world that might have been envisioned by Walt Disney on acid."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"The debut of an exciting new voice in fiction. Mr. Saunders writes like the illegitimate offspring of [Nathaniel] West and Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps a distant relative of Mark Leyner and Steven Wright. He's a savage satirist with a sentimental streak who delineates, in these pages, the dark underbelly of the American dream: the losses, delusions, and terrors suffered by the lonely, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the plain unlucky. . . . Bizarre events pop up regularly in CivilWarLand like road signs on a highway, directing the reader toward the dark heart of Mr. Saunders's America. What powers the stories along is Mr. Saunders's wonderfully demented language, his ear for absurdity and slang, his own patented blend of psychobabble, techno-talk and existential angst. Mr. Saunders's satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it is also ferocious and very funny."—The New York Times

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